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Physicians Less Likely To Diagnose Anxiety In Elderly Black Patients Than In Whites, Study Finds

December 16, 2019

Physicians are less likely to diagnose anxiety in elderly black patients than in white patients, according to a study published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Reuters Health reports. The study by Hillary Bogner of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues involved 330 elderly patients from Maryland primary care practices who had consented to in-home interviews about their psychological status and use of mood-balancing medicines.

Later, physicians were asked to rate their patients' anxiety on a four-point scale, and researchers found that older black patients were one-third as likely as older white patients to be identified as anxious. The disparity remained after accounting for the severity of the condition, functional status and medical conditions. Overall, 24.5% of black patients were being treated for anxiety with medication, compared with 44.6% of whites.

Researchers wrote, "The current study emphasizes that physicians caring for black patients should be cognizant of the tendency for anxiety symptoms to be judged as not severe," adding that "physicians might introduce this fact into their interviews when appropriate and determine whether this leads to a different conversation with their black patients" (Reuters Health, 10/24).

An abstract of the study is available online.

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